Discworldathon – Ankh-Morpork

So! It’s the end of January, which is In The Beginning for the Discworldathon! Discussions and the reading of Wyrd Sisters have been going on all month on Bex’s blog anarmchairbythesea and the proclaimed Discworld game for this month is Ankh-Morpork. This game was chosen for this month because the city of Ankh-Morpork features in nearly all of the Discworld novel, and it usually still manages to sneak a mention in those it’s not featured in.

For anyone new to Discworld, here’s a little introduction to the city of Ankh-Morpork in two quotes:

“Ankh-Morpork! Pearl of cities! This is not a completely accurate description, of course — it was not round and shiny — but even its worst enemies would agree that if you had to liken Ankh-Morpork to anything, then it might as well be a piece of rubbish covered with the diseased secretions of a dying mollusc.”
– The Light Fantastic

“Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have failed. Perhaps it’s the sheer zestful vitality of the place, or maybe it’s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no wonder. So let’s just say that Ankh-Morpork is as full of life as an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as bright as an oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead dog on a termite mound.”
– Mort

So that’s the proud city of Ankh-Morpork. A full review of the game has already been published on this blog, and can be read hereBut to sum it up, the game is a power struggled between Lord Selachii, Lord Rust, Lord de Worde, Commander Vimes, Dragon King of Arms, Chrysoprase and Lord Vetinari. All players draw a personality secretly at the beginning of the game and then have to meet the objectives stated on the card to win.

The game is brilliant in many ways, but mostly because for those who are familiar with the city and it’s inhabitants it is so well constructed. Every card that you play can be identified as a character from one of the books, with the uses of the card being dependent on the personality of that character.

In the books Havelock Vetinari always comes out on top. Even if no one knew that he was in the running. And the game reflects that by stating that the state of the city has been induced by the disappearance of Lord Vetinari. The game itself is those in a position of power in the city attempting to seize control whilst the opportunity is there. Commonly the character of Commander Vimes wins the game, as all he has to do is balance the board, preventing other characters from gaining too much control or money, or making too much trouble, until the cards run out. As Lord Vetinari is one of the personalities available to the game players it’s clear that he has vanished entirely on his own terms and has some kind of long-term plan. Or maybe he just wanted a holiday, who knows?

Sir Terry Pratchett, the amazing creator of the Discworld series (among other things) has the same fail-safe clause for the end of several of his games. It’s partly what makes the games so brilliant. In every Terry Pratchett game it’s possible for any of the game players to win, but in Ankh-Morpork, Guards! Guards!, and Witches if certain conditions are met, then the game ends and nobody wins. Which is fantastic, because it almost adds a cooperative edge to game play as everyone wants to win individually, but definitely none of you want to lose to the game!

I will admit that I’m slightly at a loss as for what to write now. I’ve summed up the game and a bit about the books, and to be honest, I really think that the city of Ankh-Morpork is too big of a feature in the series of the Discworld to be really described or talked about without me insisting that anyone reading this post goes away immediately to read every Discworld book so as to fully understand the enormity of detail in which the city has been described and personified and used a backdrop for all sorts of events.

To tie in with what the re-readathoners have been discussing over on Goodreadsthe city of Ankh-Morpork features shortly in Wyrd Sisters, the novel that’s been the subject of this month. Anyone who’s read the book will know that Wyrd Sisters is a very entertaining, silly, and just all-round highly enjoyable version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Featuring a Duke who murders his cousin, the King, so that he can be king and then goes mad. There are some differences, obviously, between Shakespeare’s tragedy and Terry Pratchett’s hilarious novel. But the story can be seen there nonetheless. Ankh-Morpork features in the novel as the place where the rightful heir to the throne is living with the acting troupe he was adopted by as a baby. This troupe is hired by the court Fool to perform a play for the Duke portraying him favorably, and the witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick badly so that the witches will lose their power and the people will like him.
The brief featuring of Ankh-Morpork is funny in this novel as the Fool is robbed when he enters the city. The thief performing the robbery expected him only to be carrying a few dollars, but instead he was carrying a vast amount of money given to him by the Duke to employ the acting troupe. The thief then freaks out because according to Guild law he’s not allowed to rob more than a certain amount off of one person. Tomjon, heir to the throne, steps in and resolves the situation. Although it’s a very brief appearance made it holds true to the way the city is, Ankh-Morpork, the city where there is a Guild for everything.

That about wraps us up for this game and this month! I intend to have next month’s post Guards! Guards! up by the middle of the month, rather than the second-last day!

I hope this post has been informative, and you’re now burning with the desire to read Discworld novels for the rest of the year.

Advertisements

Games You Can Make At Home – Nine Men’s Morris

Approx. Time Required: 30 minutes

Where Did The Game Come From?

No one really knows; Nine Men’s Morris is in the running with Chess and Go for one of the oldest games in the world. A board for it was found cut into a wall in the temple at Kurna, in Egypt which dates to 1440 BC. The dating of this is dubious as to its accuracy however, as Coptic Crosses were also found carved there which could not possibly have been put there by the Egyptians of the time. However, this game has achieved worldwide popularity across the ages, with three variations existing; Three Men’s Morris, Six Men’s Morris and Twelve Men’s Morris.

You Will Require:

dsc_0358
The Stuff.
  • A large A3 or similar sized pad of paper (in which you can store all the games you make)
  • A ruler, at least 30cm in length
  • A pencil (I recommend a mechanical one)
  • Coloured pens/pencils (optional)
  • Time – about half an hour
  • Plenty of space – either a clear table or big wooden floor

The Process:

You should start by measuring out a square on your paper. I went for one that was 9″ x 9″ as it filled the space quite nicely without being too big.

dsc_0342
Standard, boring large square.

Because Nine Men’s Morris has three squares in it and I’m a little OCD, my next step was to ensure the proper spacing of the squares. So I drew two diagonal lines, dividing the square into four triangles:

dsc_0344

*NOTE: with a 9″ x 9″ square a regular 30cm ruler will not be long enough to draw these diagonal lines. I went hunting for something longer, and ended up using a box edge.*

Once the diagonal lines are drawn in you need to measure up them and make two marks; one for the middle square, and one for the inner square. I measured 2 inches up each each line, from the outside corners for the middle square, and then another 2 inches for the inmost square.

As soon as you have all the marks, simply join them up nice and neatly and there you have all three squares – nearly finished!

dsc_0349

Okay, there’s only a few lines left to draw before you have a complete Nine Men’s Morris board, but before you draw them you should erase the diagonal lines, leaving only the small cross that marks the middle of the board, like this:

dsc_0350

The small cross in the middle is very useful for drawing the last lines. The board needs vertical and horizontal lines that go through the middle of each side of the board, essentially dividing it in half along the horizontal and vertical middle lines, but leaving the center of the smallest square completely blank. The small cross makes this easier by showing where the middle of the board is, so all you have to do is lay your ruler straight across it horizontally, and then vertically, and mark the lines.

It should look like this:

dsc_0352

If you’re rushing to finish this then at the point you could declare yourself finished, and set about playing the game, but if you have a few more minutes, you should take the time to make it a bit prettier.

Finishing Up:

First thing’s first! Go over all your lines with your ruler and a black pen. This is the most important part of finishing up. Next go over the name of the game in nice colourful pens so that it stands out, and so you don’t forget which game it is in the future.

dsc_0355

Lastly, erase any still-visible pencil lines that mar the beauty of your finished game!

The Final Product:

dsc_0356

Okay, it doesn’t look like much I admit, but this game is really good fun – and quite challenging if your opponent is any good at it. The last thing you need is to either make or find twenty four flat tokens, twelve in one colour, and twelve in another (typically black and white similar to Checkers). I suggest buttons as an excellent substitute for actual tokens from another game. If you have any, a few large buttons would make perfect pieces for this game!

As with Snakes and Ladders you can make the game as colourful, or plain, as you like, there’s plenty of space around the edges for doodling or sketching, and you could even colour in the board if you felt so inclined!

I do intend to make copies of the three other variations of this game and post them here, although I may do them all in one post, as the the system will be fundamentally the same as how I drew out this one.

If you’re interested in how to play Nine Men’s Morris check out the full review post we wrote about it here.

One Last Note…

These posts are entirely non-profit, the idea behind them being to suggest creative ways that bring assorted games into the house if you don’t have the money/space to buy beautiful wooden, or printed copies. The games I am writing about are all old and in public domain.

The Seafarers of Catan

5 - 5

Year of Publication: 1997

In The Beginning…

Was the island of Catan, and on that island small groups of people settled and expanded, becoming farmers, miners, shepherds and lumberjacks. However, the island proved to be too small to sustain multiple civilizations, so some of the people took to the seas to find new places to settle, and they became known as the Seafarers of Catan!

Okay, these Catan posts are going to be a little different to the normal reviews; as I’ve already done a full review post on the original Settlers of Catan I’m not going to do the “What’s In The Box” photos for any of the expansions or extensions, but instead only for the spin-off editions, like Starfarers of Catan or Star Trek Catan as those games are very different to the original. Instead all I’m going to do in these posts is to say which pieces are added to the base game to play the expansion and then review the differences in game play and give my opinion. All clear? Excellent! Without further ado:

What’s New?

Seafarers is obviously set over multiple islands, so each colour player is provided with 15 ships of their colour, which can be built by spending one sheep and one wood resource cards on your turn, and can then be used to travel to new places.

In addition to those the expansion also includes a large number of sea hexes and extra sea edge pieces to make the board bigger. Because several islands are involved in playing this game there are extra Catan Chits, with numbers on them to produce resources. There is also the new resource of gold, which allows a player who has a settlement built on one to claim one resource of their choice every time its number is rolled.

In original Catan each settlement gains a player one victory point, and a city is worth two. In Seafarers you get a bonus victory point for the first settlement you build that’s not on your original island, which is quite exciting. There are a few additional tiles that you put underneath such settlements so you don’t forget those points.

Lastly, in addition to the robber who lives in the desert, there is now also a pirate ship, which, obviously, lives in the sea.

Playing The Game:

As you can see from the above pictures, the way players begin the game is exactly the same as in the original Catan game, each player starts with 2 settlements, each with a road attached, and takes resources from one of those settlements to begin the game.

A players turn is exactly the same as in the original game; you roll the dice to claim resources (being wary of 7, which I’ll explain the differences of in a minute), then you build roads/settlements/cities/ships or development cards or trade for resources with other players and play development cards, and then you pass the dice to the next player, ending your turn.

Rolling Seven!

Rolling seven is the same as in the original Catan in that the player who rolls seven gets to move the robber, and can take a resource from any player effected by where they move it to. Additionally any player with seven or more cards in their hand still has to discard half of them (the lesser half in the case of an odd number, i.e. if I have 9 cards with a seven is rolled I must discard 4).

BUT!

In the Seafarers version of Catan the player who rolls the seven has the choice of moving either the robber, or the pirate ship. The pirate ship works slightly differently to the robber – the robber prevents resources from being harvested in the hex it’s on, but doesn’t do anything else. The pirate ship however has to stay in the sea, and so, instead of preventing resource production, it prevents a player from building new ships that would sit on any of the sides of the hex it’s on.

dsc_0319

As you can see, in this picture the pirate ship has been moved onto a hex that the orange player (me) is currently trying to sail through. However, until the the pirate ship was moved I could not build any more ships there.

Game play proceeds in the normal way; each player tries to build settlements, roads, cities and development cards in order to collect the required number of Victory Points – in this edition 13 – to win the game.

dsc_0322
Blue wins the game!

The winning player is the first to reach 13 Victory Points and the game ends immediately when that happens.

Strategy:

I would say that getting to the coast is key in this game; with the addition of ships the possibility to extend your road is literally doubled and the extra Victory Points gained both from having the longest road, and from building settlements on new islands are valuable. The winning player when we played had a combination of luck (good dice rolls gaining him lots of resources), settlements upgraded to cities, the longest road, development card Victory Points and settlements on a new island – so literally every possibility in the game!

Also, if one player is in a much better position to win than the others, feel free to make an agreement with the other players to not trade any resources with them, there’s no shame in sabotaging someone else’s chances to further your own cause!

In Conclusion:

This expansion is, in my opinion, worth buying, as gives that little bit extra to the basic game, making it more interesting. This game also has many different scenarios, some of which I may write short reviews of over the coming year, which gives it more diversity than the original version, which can be altered, but not drastically.

I recommend this game as an excellent family game, and good for both board game nerds and board game likers who aren’t ready for anything more intense.

dsc_0325
The smug face of the winning player.

 

 

Update! And Happy New Year!

Alright everyone!

It’s January and the Twelve Games of Christmas are now finished until December. Hopefully they’ve been an entertaining interlude over the holiday, but now it’s time to get back to business!

As promised I am now going to unveil all the plans and things that we’ve been preparing for this year.

The Plans:

Aesthetic Blog Changes:

First though, for anyone who’s been on the blog regularly, they might have noticed that we’ve had a bit of a makeover. Dave took an editorial walk around the blog and we decided that it was probably time for a change. So,  there’s a new banner, which is tied into part of my plan for the year, plus there are some updates on the About page, making our About info somewhat more up-to-date.

We now have a Contact page, which is quite exciting. Our official blog email is there and that’s checked at least three times a week by me. We’d like to invite anyone reading this to contact us if there’s a game you think we should review, or if you’re developing a game and would like us to play it for you, and help promote it!

Whilst Dave was wandering around editing stuff he thought that the blog looked somewhat like it was run by a pair of goths, hence the new, slightly less gray, colour scheme.
Okay, that’s all the aesthetic changes that have been made since November, now, onto the plans for the year!

The Games and Posts-Related Plans:

As you’re all aware from my November and December Updates there are interesting things happening this year.

The first of which is the already mentioned Discworldathon, which is happening on three blogs run by my family, and a fair few others run by people I don’t really know. Over the rest of this year there will be Discworld game posts going up, approximately every other month starting this month. These will be much shorter than our previous in-depth game reviews, and more tied to the books and films. These are a side-branch of what we normally do, as we thought a little cross-genre blog interaction could be a really good and interesting thing, definitely something with potential for the future. Discworld fans, keep an eye out for those posts!

The second plan for this year is to begin research into old games, from different countries around the world. To research the cultural history of those countries, and the developments of the games that they traditionally played. To be totally honest I don’t have any idea how that’s going to pan out, or even if it’s going to work. At the moment I don’t really know how much information is available to me and I don’t have tons of time to trawl through every resource or book or whatever. So, we’ll see how that goes. My intention is to try and post one research-based post per month, focusing on one country at a time. If there’s lots of information to be had I may extend it to two months focused on the same country.

The third plan is for a series of short posts, similar in nature to those about the Games We Made making suggestions for games you can make at home if you’re bored, or if you don’t have lots of storage space for boxes and such. My idea is make a collection of paper games that can be stored flat in one big folder, or something similar. Those posts will be a little sporadic, as they’re taking the back burner to all the other stuff at the moment, but I think they’ve got potential to go on for a decent amount of time.

Lastly, Games We’re Reviewing This Year!

I hereby proclaim this to be a Settlers of Catan year! I intend to find and play every expansion and spin-off of this game series over the next twelve months. Although there are a lot, there aren’t actually enough to post a different expansion or spin-off every week for twelve months, so the Catan posts will be mixed in with other Catan-ish games that I can find over the rest of the year.

Very very lastly: I can’t promise one post every week at the moment, as I’m in the throes of moving into a new flat, which doesn’t have any wifi yet, and might not have for quite a while. So I’m going to have to borrow wifi from other people for a while, or write all the posts on my phone (which isn’t an appealing idea to me). My new years blogolutions are:

  1. To try and post as regularly as I can, even if it means sitting in Starbucks for five hours writing posts.
  2. To follow through on all my plans for the year at least long enough to see if they’re worth making a permanent feature.

That’s everything! Hopefully this wasn’t long enough to bore you, and you’re still going to come back and read our first real post of the year, whenever I get it done!

 

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Mastermind! And acted very suspiciously all day….

The Rules:

This game is very simple. One player makes a code using the coloured pegs provided and then hides it whilst the other player looks away/puts their face in a cushion. The second player then has to use the remaining coloured pegs to try and guess the code. The first player indicates when they are right or wrong using white and red pegs. The second player has to crack the code before they run out of lines. We already wrote a full review post of this game here if you want to read more about it.

For Christmas?

Definitely! This game is a fun quickie for two players, and fantastic for keeping the most rambunctious children occupied for a little while if you’re a family that been blessed with children with boundless energy! Although a two player game doesn’t sound the best for Christmas, when there’s usually vastly more than two people around it’s actually fantastic. Both for smaller families and big ones. It’s easy to make a Mastermind tournament if you have lots of interested people or, if there’s only a few of you it’s ideal for having a few quiet moments. It’ll also keep Aunt Jean happy – she’s not strong with tactical games, but if only two people are playing it at least there should be someone left to hear about her newest animal acquisition!

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas! This brings us to the end of the Christmas period, and the end of this series of posts – at least until next year!

On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Blokus – and after spending the day with my father told me I was a chip off the ol’ block!

The Rules:

Blokus is a great game that relies on simple rules. Each player chooses a colour and takes all the tiles of that colour. Then, starting with the oldest player they place one tile, starting from the corner nearest where they’re sitting. You can place whichever tile you like but your tiles must all be connected by the points of the corners.

For Christmas?

Yes! I first played this game at Christmas and it’s good fun. It’s not particularly competitive, which makes for a relaxed game. On top of that it’s also very easy to grasp how to play. It’s such a straightforward game that Aunt Jean might even win at it, if she can stop talking about her dogs long enough to focus.

Happy Eleventh Day of Christmas! We’re nearly at the end of the Twelve Games of Christmas now and hopefully you’re  all !

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

Sphinx! And asked if I knew the answer to the riddle…

The Rules:

Sphinx is a great kids game which takes half an hour or less to play. Each player starts on the same square in the maze and moves around by rolling three dice. There are two symbols on the board, one is a little coloured card, called a Sphinx card, the other is a mummy hand. The Sphinx card allows you to collect a card of that colour from the stack next to the board, you need these to win the game. The mummy hand allows you to look at the colour of the base of one of the six Sphinxes on the board. There are three Sphinxes in the center of the board, guarding the treasure, there are also three Sphinxes down the right-hand side of the board. Each of these has a different colour on their base. To win the game a player must advance to the middle of the maze and present the correct coloured Sphinx cards in the correct order to reach the treasure. There is a double snake symbol on one of the dice. this means that the player who rolled that symbol must swap one of the Sphinxes in the center of the board with one on the side. In doing this the pattern of colours in the center also changes. The game is won when a player correctly guesses the colour pattern of the center of the board with the correct Sphinx cards.

For Christmas?

Yup! It’s a slightly more challenging game for kids who are a little older. It’s a great introduction to strategy and memory games and can be used as a learning point for the myth and history of the Sphinx (if you’re into that kind of stuff). It could also be an excellent opportunity for the kids to teach Aunt Jean something, as we all know that her interest into history doesn’t extend further than the pedigree of her favourite dog!

Happy Tenth Day of Christmas, if you’re being bored by these posts, just hang on for two more days, and then everything goes back to normal on the blog!